The Milwaukee Bucks have fired head coach Jason Kidd, the team announced Monday afternoon. Longtime assistant Joe Prunty will take over as interim coach, starting with the Bucks’ home game tonight against the Phoenix Suns.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first broke the news on Twitter.
The Bucks are 23-22 and, after losing four of their last five games, have fallen to eighth in the Eastern Conference. For a talented team – Las Vegas odds-makers set the preseason over-under at 46.5 wins – with ascendant superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee has been inconsistent and, especially the last few weeks, seemed to be underperforming. Kidd’s coaching, particularly some questionable moves and notable postgame comments, had come under fire, starting with a passionate group of fans on social media – the #FireKidd campaigners – but also among national media.
Wojnarowski tweeted that the Bucks’ decision to fire Kidd was informed by multiple factors.
Bucks made move on Kidd based upon dropping into the 8th seed in the East, frayed relationships in organization and general non-alignment, league sources tell ESPN. Bucks job will be most sought after of offseason, largely because of @Giannis_An34. — Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 22, 2018
The Bucks later released a statement thanking Kidd for his time in Milwaukee.
"We appreciate everything that Jason has done for the Bucks organization, but we have decided to make a coaching change," said general Jon Horst. "We believe that a fresh approach and a change in leadership are needed to continue elevating our talented team towards the next level, bringing us closer to our goal of competing for championships.
"Jason led a historic turnaround during his first season and would guide our team to two playoff appearances. He also played a meaningful role in helping to keep the Bucks in Milwaukee. We thank him for all of his contributions and wish him the best."
The Bucks have endured some injuries – forward Jabari Parker has yet to play this season, Mirza Teletovic is out indefinitely and Antetokounmpo has missed multiple games due to knee soreness and is sidelined Monday against the Suns – and Kidd often brought up the team’s youth when discussing their play, sometimes blaming their inexperience for losses and sometimes saying it wasn't an excuse. Regardless, the on-court results were not aligning with expectations for a forward-looking organization that's been positioning itself the past couple of years as a championship contender.
Employing a hyper-aggressive defensive scheme under Kidd, Milwaukee ranks 17th in the NBA in points allowed per game (106.1) and had the league’s sixth-worst opposing field-goal percentage (47.3). Even after trading plodding center Greg Monroe for athletic guard Eric Bledsoe, and starting long-armed John Henson with lengthy Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, the Bucks regressed on defense this year. Offensively, the team had become unpredictable, often looking inept or unprepared when Antetokounmpo was off the floor.
Despite public consternation with Kidd’s coaching, the move still came as a surprise on Monday. Kidd is a close friend of Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry and in June 2016 he received a three-year contract extension. And, while the decision to fire Kidd demonstrates some decisiveness from a three-headed Bucks ownership group that last summer was criticized for a highly publicized hiring process to replace general manager John Hammond that appeared sloppy, Monday's move also reportedly wasn't handled as smoothly as it should have been.
Chris Haynes tweeted that the head coach had not officially been told of his firing when Wojnarowski reported it and that Antetokounmpo was "devastated" by the news.
The 44-year-old Kidd, whom players – especially Antetokounmpo, who was very vocal in his support – seemed to admire, had a 139-152 record during his three-plus seasons as Bucks head coach. Milwaukee made the playoffs twice in Kidd’s tenure, being eliminated in the first round on both occasions. After his hugely successful playing career, Kidd spent two years as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets before being traded to the Bucks in 2014.
Prunty has served as interim head coach before, filling in when Kidd underwent surgery and missed several games during the 2015-16 season.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.